Lately I've been receiving a ton of messages and emails from my readers about early sobriety. I realize that many of us contemplate sobriety for months, or even years, before we decide to take the leap and make a change. Before we do, we want to know exactly what it's going to be like and what's going to happen when we get sober. I'm sure that's why a lot of you read my blog in the first place. You want to know - is getting sober possible? Is it enjoyable? What is everyday life going to be like? Well, to briefly answer those questions, early sobriety is different from years of sobriety, as I am quickly learning at 2 years and 3.5 months sober. I think early sobriety can easily be broken down into 4 realistic stages which I will detail for you below.
1. My life sucks
I think this is the fear we all have before getting sober. That our lives will be over as we know it and we'll never have fun again. We take this expectation into our first stage of sobriety. The beginning stage of early sobriety is when you might think this little lie is true. Quitting the drink is worth it, but the beginning will bring emotions, uncertainty, and vulnerability. During my first stage of early sobriety I was a self-pitying mess. I couldn't stop asking, "Why me world? Why ME?!" I hated that I couldn't drink. I was convinced life wasn't fair and that being an alcoholic put me at a disadvantage. I felt like a freak. I felt like the odd man out. Through these feelings I continued to stay sober which brought me to stage 2 of early sobriety.
2. Paranoid polly
After feeling like sober life was sad and subpar for a few weeks, I graduated into the paranoid polly stage of sobriety. I felt ok being sober and I wanted to continue, but I was constantly worried about what everyone else thought about me. I was embarrassed about being sober. I wasn't sure if I was an alcoholic or if I would be sober forever, and I didn't want to explain myself. All of these feelings filled me with paranoia and anxiety. Every time I interacted with someone I felt like there was an elephant in the room. I would think to myself, "Do they know I'm sober? Do I have to tell them? Did I embarrass myself around them when I was drinking?" I felt judged for being sober, but the only one who was doing the judging was me. Eventually, I learned to loosen up.
3. Sober, but lost
The 3rd stage of early sobriety is: sober, but lost. By the 3rd stage I was feeling secure in my sobriety. I had continued sober life for several months and it was great in comparison to my drinking life, but I was still feeling a little lost. By lost, I mean I was just beginning to figure out who I truly was. For years I hid behind the party girl image and drugs and alcohol validated my existence. I realized I actually did prefer waking up at a reasonable hour to work out on the weekends and that I hated standing in high heels at a smoky nightclub until 4 a.m. I started contemplating whether or not this sobriety thing was really something I could continue as part of my life forever. I realized it was going to be a process dealing with the pain from my drinking days and overcoming who I thought I was to become who I really am.
4. Pink Cloud
The last stage of early sobriety is one you've probably heard of before: the Pink Cloud. I hope everyone reaches this stage of sobriety before they consider giving it up. The Pink Cloud is a phrase heard often in the rooms that means you're happy-go-lucky, riding high on a cloud in the sky called sobriety. This happened once I hit my one year mark. I knew sobriety was for me and I was no longer embarrassed. I had weathered the storm of early sobriety and survived all the terrifying events that had been huge obstacles in my mind: birthday parties, weddings, holidays, all without alcohol. I became open about my sobriety and that was liberating. I shared my story with the world and a felt a huge sense of relief. I learned my family and true friends loved and accepted me no matter what. Sobriety gave me my life back and I was proud to share my success and happiness with others - as I still am today.
The truth is, with each passing month, sobriety is getting better and better. The first year is tough, I won't sugarcoat it for you. But, once you get through these stages of early sobriety you'll see the light at the end of the tunnel, and man, is it bright. I've never once regretted getting sober and I don't think you will either.